Jaskinia Wielka Śnieżna – the largest, deepest and longest
The depth of a cave is measured from the highest point to the lowest point, also referred to as the bottom of the cave. The deepest cave in all of Poland can be found in Małopolska. It is called Jaskinia Wielka Śnieżna, and it boasts a depth of 824 metres. By comparison, that's only 4 metres less than the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa! It is a true paradise for cave explorers, who return here every year to get into the most remote nooks and crannies. The name of the cave comes from the snow and ice that can be found in some parts of the cave.
Interestingly enough, the cave system was actually created due to five smaller caves becoming combined into one – Śnieżna Cave, Wielka Litworowa Cave, Nad Kotlinami Cave, Jasny Awen Cave and the Wilcza Cave, the latter being accessible only to experienced spelunkers. The system also ranks first in terms of its size and length in Poland. The total length of all the corridors and galleries stretches to 23,753 metres, and more are discovered every year.
The longest cave you can explore on your own
Mylna Cave is located in the Kościeliska Valley. It is 1,630 metres long, and you can explore 300 metres of its corridors and galleries, making it the longest cave which you can visit without a guide. Its name comes from the winding, intricate corridors, which can easily confuse you, resulting in getting lost. In some places, the route is secured with chains; however, there are spots that can be slippery and wet.
The cave has a special microclimate – even in the height of summer, the temperature inside does not exceed 5°C. Keep in mind to dress for the conditions and make sure to bring a headlamp – the cave does not have artificial lighting. It is a great way to test yourself and conquer your fears – definitely check it out!
Bats and “With Fire and Sword”
A cave filled to the brim with bats – how can it be called? You guessed it – Nietoperzowa Cave (Bat Cave). As its name suggests, it is one of the largest bat habitats, although years ago, it was a winter home for many more bats. The cave is located in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland in the Jerzmanowice municipality. It can be visited only with a guide.
The interior features spectacular rock formations and archaeological finds. The unique interior of the cave was featured as a set in With Fire and Sword and the Bollywood hit Banganistan.
Małopolska – the land of caves
Each cave is different and unique in its own way. There are some that offer a wealth of speleothems, such as the Wierzchowska Górna Cave, as well as those with less rock formations but a rich history, such as the popular Łokietka Cave located in the Ojców National Park.
Legend has it that the cave sheltered the Polish ruler Władysław Łokietek (Władysław the Elbow-High) during the invasion of King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia. The Polish king, seeing how he could not escape the Bohemian knights, hid in a crevice with little hope of survival. However, he managed to survive thanks to a freshly woven web at the entrance. The knights did not look inside, assuming that no human could have passed that way, thus saving the king’s life. To commemorate these legendary events, a gate shaped like a spider's web guards the entrance to the cave.
The Łokietka Cave is open for tourists from spring to autumn. A guided tour with stories about King Władysław is a great experience for people of all ages. The area of Ojców is also home to the Ciemna Cave – one of the most valuable archaeological troves in Poland. Each tour participant gets a flashlight or candle before going inside – the cave has no artificial lighting. Guided tours of the 150-metre trail are slated to be available from 22 April 2022.
Tourists who prefer guided tours will surely enjoy the Mroźna Cave, which is the only cave with artificial lighting and tourist features in the Tatra Mountains. However, it is worth noting that it is closed in winter.
If you do not want to move far from Kraków, you should check out the Dragon's Den, which is very well-known from the many legends about the city. The length of the route is only 82 metres, which makes it a must-see when you visit the capital of Małopolska.
Are you a cave explorer? Stay safe!
The TPN Jaskinie mobile application is a new solution created for people who practice spelunking in the Tatra National Park. People with a PZA spelunking card or a TPN spelunking license can easily register their excursions to ensure better safety and increase the chances of being found should an accident ever happen.